What Are You Reading?

by Barbara Theroux

People read books to learn, to prepare, to celebrate and to escape. Will Schwalbe’s new book talks about specific books that added meaning to his life. The title is recommended here to have you reflect on what books and reading mean to you. What books have been important to you?

books-for-livingBooks for Living by Will Schwalbe
Why is it that we read? Is it to pass time? To learn something new? To escape from reality? For Will Schwalbe, reading is a way to entertain himself but also to make sense of the world, to become a better person, and to find the answers to the big (and small) questions about how to live his life. In this celebration of reading, Schwalbe invites us along on his quest for books that speak to the specific challenges of living in our modern world, with all its noise and distractions. In each chapter, he discusses a book – what brought him to it (or vice versa), the people in his life he associates with it, and how it became a part of his understanding of himself in the world. Throughout, Schwalbe focuses on the way certain books can help us honor those we’ve loved and lost, and figure out how to live each day more fully. Rich with stories and recommendations, Books for Living is a treasure for everyone who loves books and loves to hear the answer to the question: “What are you reading?”

A new year is upon us, one that is sure to bring changes. What better way to reflect on the fast pace of the world than Thomas Friedman.

thank-you-for-being-lateThank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas L. Friedman
You feel it when you talk to your kids. You can’t miss it when you read the newspapers or watch the news. In Thank You for Being Late, Thomas L. Friedman exposes the movements that are reshaping the world today and explains how to get the most out of them and cushion their worst impacts. His thesis: to understand the 21st century, you need to understand that the planet’s three largest forces – Moore’s law (technology), the market (globalization) and Mother Nature (climate change and biodiversity loss) – are accelerating all at once. These accelerations are transforming five key realms: the workplace, politics, geopolitics, ethics and community. With his trademark vitality, wit and optimism, Friedman shows that we can overcome the multiple stresses of an age of accelerations – if we slow down, if we dare to be late and use the time to re-imagine work, politics and community. Thank You for Being Late is Friedman’s most ambitious book – and an essential guide to the present and the future.

Now that reflection and learning are out of the way, here are the escapes. Three paperbacks that talk of foreign places include:

hanging-girlThe Hanging Girl: A Department Q Novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen
In the middle of his usual hard-won morning nap in the basement of police headquarters, Carl Mørck, head of Department Q, receives a call from a colleague working on the Danish island of Bornholm. Carl is dismissive when he realizes that a new case is being foisted on him, but a few hours later, he receives some shocking news that leaves his headstrong assistant Rose more furious than usual. Carl has no choice but to lead Department Q into the tragic cold case of a vivacious seventeen-year-old girl who vanished from school, only to be found dead hanging high up in a tree. The investigation will take them from the remote island of Bornholm to a strange sun worshipping cult, where Carl, Assad, Rose and newcomer Gordon attempt to stop a string of new murders and a skilled manipulator who refuses to let anything – or anyone – get in the way. Discover why Department Q exists and read more of the unsolved cases in the earlier books by Adler-Olsen: The Keeper of Lost Causes, The Absent One, A Conspiracy of Faith, The Purity of Vengeance and The Marco Effect.

journey-to-munichJourney to Munich: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear
It’s early 1938, and Maisie Dobbs has returned to England from war-torn Spain. On a fine yet chilly morning, as she walks toward Fitzroy Square, she is intercepted by Brian Huntley and Robert MacFarlane of the Secret Service. The German government has agreed to release an important British subject from prison, but only if he is handed over to a family member. Because the man’s daughter –his only child – is gravely ill and his wife deceased, the Secret Service need a first-class female agent to present herself in the guise of his daughter at Dachau, on the outskirts of Munich. They want her to bring home a man crucial to Britain’s war plans. The British government is not alone in its interest in Maisie’s journey to Munich. Her nemesis – the man she holds responsible for her husband’s death – has learned of her journey, and is desperate for help of a more personal nature.

britt-marieBritt-Marie Was Here: A Novel by Fredrik Backman
Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. A disorganized cutlery drawer ranks high on her list of unforgivable sins. She is not one to judge others – no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt or morally suspect they might be. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms. But hidden inside the socially awkward, fussy busybody is a woman who has more imagination, dreams and a warmer heart that anyone around her realizes. When Britt-Marie walks out on her cheating husband and must fend for herself in the miserable backwater town of Borg – of which the kindest thing one can say is that it has a road going through it – she finds work as the caretaker of a soon-to-be demolished recreation center. The fastidious Britt-Marie soon finds herself being drawn into the daily doings of the town’s citizens: an odd assortment of misfits, drunkards and layabouts. Most alarming of all, she’s given the impossible task of leading the supremely untalented children’s soccer team to victory. Like Backman’s other books, A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Britt Marie Was Here is funny, moving and inspiring.

May your book selections always give you a ready answer to “What are you reading?”

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